Praise for Popcorn

As I was shopping this past Christmas for some last-minute gifts, a popcorn popper caught my eye.  It was a West Bend Stir Crazy popper (the kind where you put a little oil in the bottom).  I ended up getting two – one for my daughter and one for my mother-in-law as gifts.  Now I had either made microwave popcorn or used a saucepan on the stove in the past.  I am telling  you, this popper changed our lives.  Perhaps I’m being a little dramatic, but it certainly changed the way we make popcorn!   Now we rarely make microwave popcorn.  We are able to try a variety of toppings on our popcorn while making an effort to try healthier ones.  Also, the kernels pop light, fluffy, and delicious!  I’m not necessarily pushing this particular popcorn popper, but I now think everyone should have a popcorn popper in their kitchen.  Popcorn can be an easy, inexpensive, low-calorie snack option providing a good deal of fiber.  Of course, we all know if toppings are not kept in check, it can be a nutritional nightmare.  I am going to compare some different types of popcorn, provide a tasty recipe, and encourage popcorn to be a snack staple in your home.  What kid doesn’t love popcorn?

I’ll start with my favorite (all are based on 2 cup servings):

Oil Popped White Popcorn:  110 calories, 56 fat calories, 49%  of total calories from fat

Air Popped Popcorn:  62 calories, 6 fat calories, 10% of total calories from fat

Pop-Secret Homestyle:  60 calories, 40 fat calories, 60% of total calories from fat, 4.5 gm trans fat, 380 mg sodium 

Trader Joe’s Organic Popcorn w/Olive Oil:  130 calories, 50 fat calories,  39%  of total calories from fat, 170 mg sodium, 3 gm fiber

Popcorn, Indiana Touch of Sea Salt Popcorn:  86 calories, 32 fat calories, 38% of total calories from fat (made with canola oil), 120 mg sodium, 2 gm fiber

Now clearly, nutrition wise the first place winner would be the air popped popcorn.  In my house, that has not been the favorite as it my family think it lacks flavor.  Remember my motto:  It doesn’t matter how healthy something is, if you don’t like it you’re not going to eat it.  If you and your family enjoy the air popped, that is hands down the healthiest choice.  Now I know looking at some of the others, the fat content seems relatively high.  First of all, the Pop-Secret is loaded with trans fat.  Whenever you see trans fat on a label, you should opt for another choice.  Trans fat is considered a very detrimental saturated fat and not only raises LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) it lowers HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol).  So you are left with the oil popped popcorn and the two bagged brands..  First of all, depending on how much oil you put in your popper that percentage can go up or down.  Generally, 1 tbsp vegetable oil to 1/3 cup of popcorn is the ratio.  This makes 2 quarts of popcorn.  Positives are you can consume a larger amount of popcorn (than say potato chips, Herr’s Ripple Chips – 150 calories for 13 potato chips, 90 fat calories,  60% total calories from fat, 370 mg sodium).  If you use canola or vegetable oil, that is considered a heart healthy fat.  You are consuming a few grams of fiber in each serving.  The toppings for popcorn are limitless!  You may also want to try Kernel Season’s Popcorn Seasoning as a topping.   Some flavors include BBQ, sour cream and onion, chocolate marshmallow, kettle corn, and parmesan and garlic.  You can also add your own garlic or onion powder, paprika, and experiment with dried herbs.  Listed below is a recipe I obtained from www.bellybytes.com

Big League Snack Attack Recipes

1/3 cup butter

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/4 tsp garlic salt

1/4 tsp onion salt

6 cups unsalted popped popcorn

1 cup thin pretzel sticks

1/2 cup roasted peanut

Toss together popcorn, pretzel sticks and peanuts in a large bowl.  Melt the butter and stir in the seasonings.  Drizzle butter/seasoning mixture over popcorn mixture, stirring to coat well.  Spread the mixture in a large, shallow pan and put it in a preheated 250 degree oven to bake for 45 minutes.  Stir with a wooden spoon every ten minutes while baking.

Yields 8 cups

Nutrition Information (Per cup)

136.4 calories, 9.4 gm fat, 1.6 gm fiber, 273 mg sodium

Remember popcorn can be an easy, nutritious snack but varies so much by what you put on it.  When conscientious about toppings, popcorn far exceeds many of its snack competitors in the nutrition arena.  As I always say, experiment!  Ask your child what toppings or recipes they would like to try using popcorn!  There are tons of popcorn recipes on the internet.  Search away!

“The laziest man I ever met put popcorn in his pancakes so they would turn over by themselves.”  W. C. Fields

Shake Your Booty!

Ok, I think I had some type of writer’s block the past few weeks but I’m coming out of  it!!  There are always so many topics running through my mind that I want to write about.   Honestly, it is often difficult to pick one.  Something I think I need to promote now is EXERCISE.  Especially this time of the year when the weather is starting to get nicer!    Here goes…

Everyone would probably agree the past few weeks in the Philadelphia area the weather has been extraordinary.  It definitely puts me in a good mood.  Spring sports are beginning.  People are outside walking, biking, running, etc.   Although what we put into our bodies has a great effect on our health, keeping active is vitally important.   You’ve all heard it before.  Kids are much less active now than when most of us were growing up.  I don’t want to give the impression I’m old (I’m definitely NOT).  Back in the day, we went outside and  climbed trees, went sledding, ran, played tag, rode bikes, played hopscotch, hit a tennis ball against a wall, and I really did walk to school!!  Last winter I suggested sledding to my daughter and she replied, “I hate walking back up the hill.”  That used to be part of the fun (definitely not something that would deter me from sledding)!!  Now the opportunities for our kids to sit inside and watch TV, play video games, text, email, Skype, Facetime, etc. are overwhelming.  This has become “normal.”  It is a difficult battle to fight but getting our children active in any  way, shape, or form must  become a priority.  

What are some of the benefits of exercise for our children?  The same as for us but even more important because starting when they are young makes it all the more likely they will continue to exercise as adults.  Exercising three to four times a week increases bone strength/density, cardiovascular endurance, speed, flexibility, strong muscles, and better balance.   Studies show that psychologically, children and teens who exercise regularly are in better moods (ok, where are those teens?), have higher self-confidence, and greater academic success. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends sixty minutes of physical activity a day for kids.  It does not have to be done all at one time.  Thirty minutes in gym class, twenty minutes doing Dance Revolution and ten minutes walking the dog all count.  The best way to get your child to exercise is to be a good role model and exercise yourself.  The activity should be fun and diverse for your child – something they are looking forward to doing.  Exercising together is a great way to encourage activity.  Variety is also key.  Great cardiovascular activities include walking/jogging, bike riding and jumping rope.  A mini-trampoline is great to jump on when watching TV to get a little extra exercise (in the proper environment, of course).  Intramural sports teams, dance and karate lessons, tennis lessons, and classes at the local YMCA are all great options.  Our local Main Line YMCA has a workout room just for kids.  The exercise equipment is geared toward younger bodies.  They have trainers available to make up a program for your child.  My daughter went for several months last year with two of her girlfriends and loved it.

Now is the time to get out there with your child or teen and get physical!  Remember it must be something your child ENJOYS.  A good way to get your child started is by doing something together.  The other option that works well is have your son or daughter do something with a friend.  Log on to www.kidshealth.org to read more about the benefits of exercise, suggested routines, and lots of other useful health information.   This site is written for kids and teens and has lots of  material regarding nutrition and fitness.  Now that the weather is warmer it is the perfect time to get outdoors and SHAKE YOUR BOOTY!!!! 

Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states.  Carol Welch